12 Ways Travel Helps Us Live Our Fullest Lives
1. Travel lets you explore many different passions at once.
“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
– Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space
When you travel, it’s infinitely easier to delve into a multitude of different activities within the span of a single day. You have the time to surf in the afternoon and then spend your evening salsa dancing. You can write poems before dawn and then take off on a mountain hike. You can taste wine all night with a sommelier and then wake up bright and early to go on a Gothic architecture tour.
Exploring different parts of the world makes it easier to simultaneously explore your different passions and interests. Your time, your world, and the possibilities in front of you all expand. Perhaps best of all is that travel helps you realize you don’t have to limit yourself to one passion — you can have them all.
2. Travel teaches the importance of stillness.
“Most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting.”
– Robert Thomas Allen, humorist
It’s hard to feel fulfilled in life if you’re always rushing through it. Travel teaches you to slow down enough to observe the beauty and chaos around you.
In a familiar environment, it’s easy to plow through day after day, never pausing to reflect on or relish in the moment. But when you travel, you’re forced to embrace the quiet moments to process everything you’ve experienced. When you travel, you feel compelled to stop power-walking through the park and to sit on the bench instead, absorbing everything around you while also appreciating the beauty of doing nothing.
3. Travel makes you feel alive.
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.”
– Frank Herbert, science fiction writer
Travel introduces you to the unknown, and a face-to-face greeting with the unknown inevitably piques your curiosity, calls forth your fear, and channels your excitement all at once. A pretty great combination. Curiosity, fear, excitement — these are the emotions that invite your whole body to participate in a new experience, that imprint a memory so vivid in your mind you might spend your life chasing the experiences that bring about these sensations.
Whether you’re kissing a stranger in Belize, rock climbing in the Andes, or tasting authentic Italian pizza for the first time in Naples, travel brings you new experiences that awaken your soul and shows you what it means to be fully human.
4. Travel teaches you happiness is possible anywhere and everywhere.
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel — not a destination.”
– Roy M. Goodman, State Senator from New York
When you travel and interact with the different people you encounter, you begin to see a common theme emerge: In every corner of the world, under every possible circumstance, there are people living happily. You’ll see joyful people wherever you are — in a shantytown on the outskirts of Mexico City, a farming community in northern Kansas, a crowded district of Shanghai.
And you’ll start to see it in yourself, too. The more time you spend in different places, the more you realize your happiness isn’t dependent on where you are or what your environment looks like. Traveling to places that offer different definitions of hardship and luxury teaches you that you have the power to cultivate happiness wherever you are.
5. Travel shows you there’s more than one way to live.
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
– Alan Keightley, author
Travel catapults you from your cushy net of familiarity into a vast planet of possibility. Observing how people live in Norway vs. Kenya vs. New Zealand shows you, above all, that there’s no one “right” way to do anything.
Like the old adage says, there are as many ways to live as there are people in the world. When you travel, you gradually learn that every lifestyle has its own merits and challenges. And you learn you don’t have to accept the way you grew up as the only way to live — you can embrace new attitudes and combine different values to create your own unique style of moving through the world.
6. Travel helps you know yourself more deeply.
“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”
– Lillian Smith, writer and social critic
It’s impossible not to learn about yourself when you travel. When you’re faced with annoying difficulties, unforeseen obstacles, and unprecedented beauty, all your habits and preferences and insecurities and idiosyncrasies bubble to the surface.
Waiting for a delayed flight will quickly reveal to you your patience — or lack thereof. Backpacking through Central America with your best friend will teach you which qualities you appreciate in another person and which you can’t stand after 72 hours of nonstop “bonding.” What you choose to spend your money on will help you understand what you value. And once you see these things about yourself, what comes next?
7. Travel turns the mundane into the novel.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
– Bill Bryson, author
Travel transforms even the most basic experiences — like going to the bank or ordering a drink at a bar — into exciting mini-adventures.
When you’re in a familiar environment, it’s normal to follow the same rutted routine, never pausing to ask questions or give praise or appreciate the way something works. But when you’re figuring out how to operate a high-tech toilet in Tokyo or wandering into a French pharmacie to buy facial cleanser, your eyes are wide open to the quirks and beauty in the everyday.
8. Travel gives you the opportunity to create deep bonds with others.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
– Tim Cahill, travel writer
Because travel experiences tend by definition to be ephemeral, there’s a greater sense of urgency and willingness to get to know the people you meet on the road in a deeper, more honest way. When you know your German language course only lasts three months, or that you’re in Slovenia just for the weekend, it becomes easier to approach potential friendships and connections with more curiosity, open-mindedness, and vulnerability than you would with people you encounter in your normal routine at home.
Those connections, however fleeting, hold a special kind of meaning so far from home. And once you’re back home, that special significance never goes away.
9. Travel gives you the confidence to be alone and actually enjoy it.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
– Freya Stark, explorer and travel writer
Even if you haven’t traveled solo, you’ve probably had a moment at some point during your travels when you were alone and totally at peace. Maybe it’s the 40 minutes you spent in a little Roman café before your train departed, or the three free hours you had every day in Cuzco between Spanish classes, or even the brief moments before your best friend woke up in the hostel bunk above you.
However it happens, travel forces you to become comfortable with yourself. More than likely, you’ll even start to appreciate your own company and relish the time you have with no one else around.
10. Travels helps break down stereotypes and broaden your mind.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
– Aldous Huxley, writer
Unless you’re hyper-focused on picking apart a place’s faults or criticizing another country for all the ways it differs from your own, it’s impossible to travel and not feel your perspective shift as you learn more about the “foreign” place you’re in.
It might be the simple observation that most French people aren’t rude, beret-wearing culinary snobs as cartoons depict them to be, or the realization that there are major metropolitan areas, full of vibrant big-city culture, throughout Africa. Your revelations, however minor or transcendent, help shape and expand your worldview.
11. Travel shows you how every situation in life can be a learning experience.
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.”
– Samuel Johnson, 18th-century essayist
Every travel experience can teach you something if you let it. The lessons might be simple, like learning to appreciate the cleanliness and beauty you take for granted at home after spending a week somewhere that seems to have tons of litter and no government-funded trash cleanup.
Or the lessons might be more complex — you could take a business trip to Sweden and discover a new entrepreneurial technique you want to implement at home. Or maybe every one of your ferries gets delayed when you’re island-hopping through Greece, but instead of getting angry at the constant tardiness, you learn to relax and surrender to the situation. You learn how to handle other people, other cultures, other experiences — and you learn how to handle yourself.
12. Travel helps you discover what you love to do.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did.”
– Mark Twain, author
Sailing off the coast of Croatia, taking a chocolate-making class in Peru, walking through the redwoods in northern California, studying Portuguese in Brazil — these experiences are the kind that help you understand how you prefer to spend your time.
Travel lets you experiment with every type of lifestyle and activity and cuisine and climate, then gives you the chance to determine what exactly gets your heart pumping. And once you figure that out, the possibilities are endless.